Edoardo Sanguineti remains as contemporary in 2018 as he was in 1963. Will Schutt's translations are a substantial delight, navigating both Sanguineti's acrobatic syntax and his unpretentious yet endless range of references. The tongue-tip pleasure of the original Italian is everywhere apparent in Schutt’s English, with colloquialisms like “a total sexy-booze and -schmooze” and “the muscle-mush of tourists” providing consistent and gleeful force. This selection conveys the irresistibly irreverent tone of a major modern Italian author, and elegantly recreates the invention and pathos for which Sanguineti is revered.
One of the marks of a skillful translation, particularly of poetry in translation, is that the reader, reading along, simply forgets that it’s a translation. In My Life, I Lapped It Up, Will Schutt has achieved this end. Using a poet’s focus on sound and language, Schutt brings us (preserving parentheticals and the linguistic mash-up of the original) the wordplay, the anarchy, the skip and scrabble of Sanguineti. The speaker avers that “the Aeolian harps do not play for you,” but I’d beg to differ. “Let’s talk, please, about life’s pleasures”: “to sleep in the sun … to drink wine (French, if possible...)”—to find an important Italian poet rightfully rendered into spiky, readable, pleasurable poems in English.
My Life, I Lapped It Up is the first comprehensive English translation of one of postwar Italy’s most important poets. Edoardo Sanguineti (1930-2010) is best known as an influential member of the Italian intellectual avant-garde that rose to prominence in the 1960s. During his 60-year career, he published more than 20 volumes of poetry, as well as librettos, novels, plays, books of literary and social criticism, and translations. This collection highlights his most psychologically probing and approachable poems, featuring work from his mid and late career.
Will Schutt is the author of Westerly, which won the 2012 Yale Younger Poets Prize. His translations of Sanguineti have appeared in Agni, Circumference, FIELD, and Poetry Northwest, and have been supported by grants from the PEN/Heim Translation Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts.
"acrobat (n. masc.)"
acrobat (n. masc.): one who walks on the very tips (of his toes): (at least
that’s its etymon): yet who also proceeds, effortlessly, on the very tips
of his fingers (and the tines of a fork): on his head: (and on a bed of nails,
fakiring and funambuling): (on tightropes strung across two houses,
through streets and squares: on a trapeze, in a circus, in a circle, up in the sky):
he twirls, pliantly, on two stilts slid into two cups, into two shoes,
into two gloves: (in smoke, in air): pneumatic and somatic, in thin air:
(in air-pumped tires, in barrels and bottles): and performs a fatal leap:
and a fatal (and moral) spin:
(I spin and leap like that, me, in your heart):
"split from you, I’m stripped of everything"
split from you, I’m stripped of everything:
but the best (or worst) of me
still clings to you, sticky, like honey, glue, a thick oil: I come back to myself
when I come back to you: (and find my thumbs and lungs again):
in a little while I land in Madrid:
(there’s a sampling of my countrymen in the rear
of the plane, suits that tally up numbers, drinking, smoking, wound up,
I still live for you if I’m still alive:
"what (I wonder)"
what (I wonder) do I seek in myself so that I run from myself, thus running, forever
at a gallop? it’s me, I know: (my death): (a sweet death): (a sleep-with-the-fishes death):
(which isn’t really coming for me, anyway): (and it’s not as if it’s right over my shoulder
now, probably not):
I run from my life (from you, meaning you’re my life):
(if all this makes so little sense, what shall we do?): I run in me, I run in you:
in your world, in mine: (me, who once thought, to think, that I’d had everything in life,
having had you):
when we arrive, we cry: safe!: (game over, for real):
Translation copyright c 2018 by Will Schutt. May not be reproduced without permission.